Electric Sheep’s jolly AI-powered garden bot edges, trims and blows

Electric Sheep will add the AI-powered Verdie landscaping robot to its automated outdoor maintenance solutions from Q2 2024.  Electric Sheep Robotics

For the last few years, San Francisco’s Electric Sheep Robotics has been providing automated outdoor maintenance tech as a Robots-as-a-Service rental model. But more recently the company has been acquiring traditional outdoor service providers and “progressively transforming operations by deploying proprietary AI software and robots” in a move towards becoming a large-scale outdoor maintenance company.

Tapping into this US$1 trillion market involves replacing the “wide variety of highly pollutant gas power tools; string trimmers, leaf blowers, weed sprayers, etc” – while also addressing labor shortages in the industry – by rolling out emission-free automated helpers.

The brains of the operation is an generative AI training model dubbed ES1, a so-called world model that makes use of photo-realistic simulated parks and lawns to give maintenance bots the smarts to do their jobs and overcome any issues that crop up in the real world, such as avoiding obstacles and freeing themselves from gopher holes.

Verdie looking somewhat menacing in the pre-launch teaser, though it’s actually inspired by friendly movie bots like WALL-E, R2-D2 and BB-8.  Electric Sheep Robotics

The AI models are designed to run on Nvidia’s Jetson platforms so the company “can train the entire policy on a single desktop GPU.” The system will also add to its pre-trained knowledge pool by learning from real outdoor scenarios while out with crews.

The ES1 agent is currently in use across a fleet of 40 robot mowers in “hundreds of yards across America” and will also be present in the new Verdie bot when it’s deployed from Q2 this year, but is paired with reinforcement learning in simulation to give the movie-inspired garden bot the know-how to handle a number of common power tools.

Electric Sheep has tested Verdie with various electric power tools, and is currently verifying that the garden helper can work safely with outdoor maintenance crews.  Electric Sheep Robotics

Electric sheep reports that a variety of electric tools have already been successfully tested, each powered by the tool’s own battery after “a few simple modifications.” Stereo cameras help the AI agent to make sense of the workspace, producing a “bird’s eye view ” map, detecting low-lying obstacles, registering the pose of the robot and so on. The self-balancing articulating wheeled platform features actuators in the legs for six degrees of freedom – with Verdie able to adjust pitch, roll and height as necessary while performing tasks.

“The debut of our Verdie robot is the first AI robot for tasks like trimming and edging in the world of landscaping, and it’s exciting to see our ES1 technology power multiple robots that can work alongside a crew without an engineer on-site setting a specific path for them,” said company co-founder and CEO, Nag Murty. “We will be rolling out the Verdie to our customer sites throughout 2024 and continuing to build out this fleet of robots as autonomous agents trained on outdoor services.”

The video below shows a playful Verdie in action.

The World’s Most Advanced Landscaping Robot | Verdie

Source: Electric Sheep  View gallery – 3 images



Leave a Reply